Return of il Troubadore & the Wookie Cellist to Dublin Pub

By Gary Spencer

Photo: il Troubadore’s Jon Silpayamanant as the Wookie Cellist returns to Dublin Pub Dec. 9  photo: Carrie Meyer

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… oh, who the hell do we think we’re kidding? In 2004 in Indianapolis, four musicians decided to join forces in a battle against the dark side of music. That band, known as il Troubadore, has been fighting the good fight for world and centuries-old music for over a decade now, developing a reputation as a unique ensemble that operates under a variety of guises. This Friday, the quartet will be performing in its Star Wars themed persona, il Troubadore & the Wookiee Cellist, in celebration of the Dec. 16 release of the new Star Wars movie, “Rogue One,” in what is sure to be a festive evening for both world music and Star Wars fans alike.

According to cellist and composer Jon Silpayamanant, il Troubadore’s origins began much like many bands in the cyber age.

“Robert [Scott, il Troubadore vocalist and mandolin player] put out a call at an online bulletin board to form a Renaissance rock band,” the cellist says. “I made the mistake of responding with ‘I used to play cello’ and my contact info.  He cyberstalked me and called me incessantly until I relented and said, ‘Sure.’”

Once the additional components of Ron Fife on percussion and Dianna Davis on winds and accordion were added into the mix, il Troubadore found its mission to put the “world” back into world music, playing in styles dating back to the 17th  century and beyond. They also sing in more than three dozen languages, including Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, and Swahili.

“Robert and I are both classically trained musicians, and with his being a vocalist, he had to learn how to sing in other languages,” Silpayamanant explains. “We felt that we might as well add a tune in every language and as many styles as we can to our ever-growing song list. And our mission eventually evolved into what it is now—exploring and sharing music from around the world to help bridge the gap between cultures.”

Along the way, while delivering il Troubadore’s mission to the masses, the ensemble began playing the sci-fi and fantasy convention circuit. In doing so, the band members decided they could create alter-ego versions of the group to make things more entertaining.

“We were asked to play a Star Wars versus Star Trek show, which led us into learning some tunes from both franchises,” Silpayamanant explains. “We had a great time and thought, ‘Hey, no one is really doing Klingon Music around here, so let’s start a Klingon band!’”

And with that, the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project was born, leading the band to record an album of Klingon-inspired music, including the soundtrack to A Klingon Christmas Carol (the first full-length play in Klingon), as well as composing a Klingon ballet, which they performed during conventions in Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. However, a gig at yet another Star Wars themed event led the ensemble to create another alter ego, this time centered on the George Lucas franchise that so many people love.

“In 2011, we were asked to play the Joliet Library Star Wars Day near Chicago,” Silpayamanant explains. “The organizers thought it would be funny having Klingons invading the Festival. The ad campaign said something about the Cantina band being unable to perform due to ‘imperial entanglements’ so we were the replacements. It was a hoot and the audience loved it, so we decided we should adopt a Star Wars band persona.”

This new persona, dubbed il Troubadore & the Wookiee Cellist, features the group decked out in costumes of the franchise’s most beloved characters, including Silpayamanant, armed with his trusty cello, dressed in a full-fledged Chewbacca getup. The group has gone on to record a Star Wars inspired album and play numerous Star Wars-themed events, thrilling fans and newcomers alike with their world-music inspired take on familiar Star Wars themes.

“It was only a matter of time before we started singing in Ewok and Huttese, right?” Silpayamanant jokes. “We play Star Wars tunes you can no longer hear in the original trilogy. We have arrangements of the ‘Imperial March’ and ‘May the Force Be With You,’ and original Star Wars inspired tunes.”

Friday’s event is both a celebration of Star Wars culture, as well as a charity fundraiser that will accept donations and raise proceeds for Toys For Tots. Fellow Star Wars geeks are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite character for entry into a costume contest. And, of course, there’s the music, which Silpayamanant suggests may be familiar to those who aren’t necessarily Star Wars diehards.

“You can expect to hear tunes from a long time ago from a galaxy far, far away, and very likely some tunes that aren’t from so long ago and closer to home. I mean, when was the last time you saw a band with a Wookiee cellist covering ‘Crazy Train?’”

il Troubadore & the Wookiee Cellist will perform at the ‘Rogue One’ movie release party Friday, Dec. 9 at The Dublin Pub, 300 Wayne Ave.in Dayton. Music begins at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit
Troubadore.com and DubPub.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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